Family Lifestyle Portraiture: Document Your Family On a Fun Outing

My family spent the 4th of July at Moraine State Park and Lakeview Beach and it’s been a while since I’ve photographed my boys, so remembering to bring my camera was just as important as remembering to pack the picnic basket!

On the lake at Moraine State Park

We rented a pontoon boat on Lake Arthur and had a terrific time cruising around the lake.

Taking in the sights at Lake Arthur

I love this mischievous smile.

Love it when he smiles like he's about to be mischevious

Our nephew came along with us and is so good with our boys. And they adore him!

my nephew hugging my littlest

Then we headed to Lakeview Beach for some swimming, because when you’re little, you can’t go on a boat and not swim in the water! That would be a terrible tease.

Getting acquainted with the lake

With nap time looming, this little guy was primed for a solid afternoon nap. Lots of fun and sun will wear a little guy out!

Giggles before nap time

I love capturing days like this and hope to do more of that on our upcoming vacation. I have over a year’s worth of photos like this to print and I’m going to make that happen this winter. It’s funny that I’ve gotten so far behind in filling our albums with 4×6 prints, because I’m slightly neurotic about being able to go back and look at these moments. And if you’re someone who hasn’t made regular prints of your family, I urge you that it’s never to late to start and if you’re overwhelmed, just back up your current digital files and start making batches of prints from your new captures each month. With digital photography, we’ll have a lot less to look back on and pass down to our families if we’re not diligent about backing up and printing these precious memories!

Cranberry Newborn Portraits: Scheduling the Best Time for Your Baby

When parents first come home from the hospital with their baby, they’re often unsure of the best time of day to schedule for newborn portraits. If the delivery didn’t have any complications and they get to come home two days later, they haven’t had much opportunity to get a feel for their baby’s best time of day. And with days blurring into nights, it’s hard to really think straight (at least it was for me.)

sleepy baby in gauze swaddle

So when my clients call to set up their session, I most often suggest mid-morning, keeping in mind that I’ll be using mostly window light. The afternoon works as well, and it really depends on the family’s best time of day. If you’re not a morning person, then it makes perfect sense to go for the afternoon.

mom, dad, and baby by the window

What’s more important than the time of day, is that the baby starts the session right after a feeding. So if you’re following a feeding schedule, that can be helpful to consider when scheduling.

alert baby

With lifestyle photography, there is no pressure to make sure the baby is sleeping or awake, lifestyle sessions are aimed at capturing baby
and family in their natural state. Although, it’s best if parents are awake! And some mamas have a preference of sleeping vs. awake and most of the time babies will do both within the time of the photoshoot.

baby feet

Really love seeing this little daring in the dress with the huge bows at her shoulders!

baby in crib

Here’s a shot from this couple’s maternity session. They are going to be such great parents!

pregnant mom and husband

Mars Family Portraits: Scheduling for Your Best Time of Day

There are two ideal times of day for outdoor portraits when it comes to finding the best light: early morning and early evening. And depending on the time of year, your family’s makeup and routines, one of those times will be much better than the other. In the summer, I might suggest as early as 7 or 7:30 a.m. and I know that sounds like madness at first, but for some families with young children it makes a lot of sense because kids can wake up well before then. Plus, it’s still cool and the kids are still well rested. As a mom myself, I can say hands down, that my children are at their best in the morning. I’m sure that’s not the case for all little ones, but I think it generally applies to most children. And with my children, they’re less consistent in mood and behavior closer to dinner time, so for now, we are best photographed in the morning. And from a photography standpoint, the shadows are more spacious and open shade is where I like to spend most of my time photographing families because the light is even and soft. You really want to have the light coming from a low angle, behind or from the side, just not from above like it would at noon, causing squinting or shadows in the eyes. And for a warm, sunny look, it’s nice to use the sun as a back light in the early morning or at sunset.

cranberry area portrait

But for the most part, I look for open shade, because kids like to move around a lot and I can focus on capturing the moment rather than having the distraction of continually adjusting my exposure in the changing lighting. On overcast days, lighting is a breeze just about anywhere and we have a lot of days like that in Pittsburgh, but you can’t count on it, so it’s best to plan for closer to when the sun is rising or setting. And if your family is not made up of morning-people, then early evening is your best bet. It is really the better of the two best times of day, because shooting into sunset, the light gets prettier and prettier, where as shooting after sunrise, the light gets increasingly harsh as the sun continues to rise. But that’s not to say that you can’t capture great portraits in the morning.

Another trick I like to use for little ones on the move is to bring chairs. Not for their form, but all for function. When you have the right sized chair, kids will sit for a bit, and this was the perfect way to keep these darling two-year old twins off of the wet grass and stationary enough to get them looking at the camera at the same time. Plus, their mama’s trick of singing Happy Birthday with some fun variations got them giggling and we all started cheering for them and what a good job they were doing and it was like magic!

twins portraits

We walked around their neighborhood in Mars, Pa., and stopped at the community playground for some candid shots on the playground. This is such a natural opportunity for lifestyle photography. Love the smiles when kids are at play.

lifestyle photography at the playground

It’s unscripted, pure joy at this age!

photographing kids at play

And we walked back to their home for some portraits in front of their front door, which happened to be in open shade.

family photo at the front door

After getting some great shots of the family, we brought in their dog for a few. What a sweet family!

family with dog

family portrait with pet

And if you’re not sure what time of day, suits your family, give me a call. Sunset and sunrise changes throughout the year, so there’s a wide range of times depending on the season. I’d be happy to help you figure out your best bet!

Pittsburgh Weddings: Valley Brook Country Club

This recent wedding was tons of fun and I think the bride and groom will look back on it with many fond memories. The day started with your usual pre-wedding hustle and bustle, the ceremony was sweet and heartfelt and the reception was joyous with a full dance floor thanks to music by the Bachelor Boys Band. But, let’s start at the very beginning (or at least, the time my coverage started!) with the bride in her gown from One Enchanted Evening in Zelienople, Pa. And the bouquet, which is better seen below is by Hearts and Flowers Floral Design in Hampton, Pa. The flowers were truly lovely!

bride in dress from One Enchanted Evening

I love it when brides turn the corner to walk down the aisle with a lowered gaze. It’s so bashful and bride-like. Then she looks up and sees the room full with adoring guests and her groom anxiously awaiting her at the other end.

father walking daughter down the aisle

Their vows were sweet. And having been married for 10 years myself, I feel there was a lot of wisdom in the wording they chose. It might seem funny for a photographer to share an opinion about that, but I felt like saying a big amen!

wedding vows

The Valley Brook Country Club is an absolutely lovely venue for a wedding. The ceremony was supposed to take place outside, but it rained the night before and the grounds were pretty soggy, so they used the reception space for the ceremony and transformed it for the reception during the cocktail hour – impressive!

portraits at Valley Brook Country Club

Love this line-up of the bridal party on the bridge and I think they were having fun with it too.

bridal party at Valley Brook Country Club

Look at how he embraces her! Such a lovely couple!

bride and groom on bridge

I can’t take any credit for this fun shot. It was their idea and so much fun!

bridesmaids and groom

Seeing the way a bride and groom look at each other can really make a difference. Just love the expression on his face!

smitten groom

Love seeing her cathedral veil outstretched in this shot, but even more the feeling between these too.

flowers by Hearts and Flowers Floral Design

The toast had lots of laughs and sentiment.


Some quests requested the bride and groom sing one of their karaoke classics and they obliged!

karaoke wedding reception

This is one of my favorite shots of the night. It’s just about the last song, Sweet Caroline, and everyone was into it!

dancing at the wedding reception

Congratulations and blessings to this happy couple!

Pittsburgh Newborn: Finding Natural Light in the Home

When possible, I love to use natural lighting for newborn sessions. When I first spoke with this mama, she was concerned about whether her home had enough natural light and I assured her that I’d do a quick walk-through to find some of the best spaces and bring supplemental lighting as back-up. But look at this first portrait of her and sweet baby by the window. So glad I didn’t need to get out my strobes until later!

mama and her baby at the window

Sometimes siblings of newborns are in a tender state as they adjust to life with a baby. For that reason, I love taking some time to make them feel special too.

dad and big sister

We still haven’t left their bedroom as it has lots of soft light and the bed is a perfect place to photograph the whole family.

family portrait on the bed

Just love how babies gaze at their parents and this little guy seemed to be very aware of his surroundings.

father and son

I’m not bashful about admitting how I love this arrangement for the parents and baby. My husband and I spent a lot of time on the couch, just checking out our little baby boys, so it comes naturally to suggest this.

baby looking up at his parents

And for a close-up of just the little guy, we snuggled him up in this blanket and placed the basket on the landing of the steps that was washed in bright window light. This baby boy was so close to falling asleep!

snuggly baby boy

Blessings to this sweet baby and his family!